Passive Solar and Energy Efficient Home Design


It is a fact, that everything we build is solar. When we ignore solar energy during the design stages we end up with a building which may benefit from solar, though it is just as likely to be beat up by solar energy.  A passive solar design will not only lower your utility bills, it will be comfortable. Comfort is priceless.

The following guidelines are drawn from research and practical application, from successes and failures,  from the experience of our ancestors who lived in caves, and from recent computer generated studies.

Orientation: The longest wall of the home should face south. The winter sun rises South of East and sets South of West. Placing more glass on the South wall will ensure that your home receives free solar energy.

This same orientation helps to prevent the high summer sun from entering the home.

A compass will point to magnetic North/South, but a solar home or collector works best when it faces TRUE SOUTH.

In the El Paso area true south is 12 degrees East of magnetic South. This declination from magnetic south varies across the country depending on longitude.

Solar Access: Buildings or trees too close to your home could block the low winter sun.

Windows: The amount of glass on the South wall may equal 7% of the homes total square footage.
(Example: 2,000 Sq. Ft. = 140 Sq. Ft. of glass.)

To avoid overheating, this amount of glass should not be exceeded. The 7% applies to conventional home construction with standard floorm coverings such as carpet, vinyl tile, or wood. Increasing glass area above 7% will require additional thermal mass, i.e. concrete/tile floors, rock, brick, concrete or adobe walls.

The 7% amount is NET sq. ft. or the total window area less the trim etc.

Multiply the entire window by .8 to get the net glass area.

Example: A 3’0″X5’0″window is 15 sq. ft.
15 X .8 = 12 sq. ft. net

East and North glass should be limited to no more than 4% of total sq. ft. (Maximum)

West glass should not exceed 2% of total sq.ft.(MAXIMUM)

Landscaping: Plant deciduous or evergreen trees on the east, west and north sides of the home. Xeriscape! Avoid dark colors, inside and out.

Insulate exterior of slab/foundation with extruded polystyrene sheets. R-5 for moderate climates, R-10 for colder climates.

Sole Plate: Install sill sealer under the bottom plate of all exterior walls, on both the first and second floors.

Walls: In moderate climates use 2X4 frame walls with R-13 batts and R-4 rigid insulated sheathing boards (1″ expanded polystyrene). For Cold climates, use 2X6 frame walls with R-19 batts and the same R-4 sheathing.  Sprayed cellulose insulation should be considered because, though more expensive than batts, is more effective because it fills voids and reduces air leakage.”

Attic: Ceiling ­ Install R-30 insulation, blown in type is preferable, for moderate climates. Levels of R-38 to R-50 are recommended for colder climates

IMPORTANT: Prior to installing wall insulation, use cans of expanding foam insulation and/or caulk to seal all electrical and plumbing penetrations, around doors and windows.

Tape/seal all joints in ductwork.
Duct work should be installed in interior (heated) space so that heat or cold is not lost to unheated spaces (attic).
Furrdowns should be sheathed and sealed prior to installing duct.

Insulate walls surrounding furnace closets and seal return air plenum.

Doors: Install steel or fiberglass insulated exterior doors that have an insulation value of R-5.9 or greater. Lower R-value doors can be used in conjunction with a storm door.

Ventilation: Place and size windows to take advantage of natural ventilation and prevailing breezes.

Fans: The use of ceiling fans can drastically reduce the running time of air conditioners.

Contact your local county agent or state energy office for recommendations specific to your area.

More Info:

Metal particle generates new hope for hydrogen energy

Led by Associate Professor Greg Metha, Head of Chemistry, the researchers are exploring how the metal nanoparticles act as highly efficient catalysts in using solar radiation to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. “Efficient and direct production of hydrogen from solar radiation provides a renewable energy source that is the pinnacle of clean energy,” said Associate Professor Greg Metha. “We believe this work will contribute significantly to the global effort to convert solar energy into portable chemical energy.”

Inkjet printing could change the face of solar energy industry

Inkjet printers, a low-cost technology that in recent decades has revolutionized home and small office printing, may soon offer similar benefits for the future of solar energy. Engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a way for the first time to create successful “CIGS” solar devices with inkjet printing, in work that reduces raw material waste by 90 percent and will significantly lower the cost of producing solar energy cells with some very promising compounds.

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